Do you often find yourself questioning someone's interpretation of a particular Biblical passage? Do you desire to find a deeper understanding of what the Bible really says? Does your Bible reading leave you with more questions than answers? If so, here are some helpful tips that will make your reading more enjoyable and meaningful. Whether you are participating in a daily reading program, preparing for a Bible study, or hoping to gain insight on a particular subject, there is a wealth of wisdom within the pages of "the greatest book ever written."
1. Keep it personal. Religious beliefs and convictions are very personal matters. Ask three people for their interpretation of a scriptural passage and you will get three different responses. That explains why there are so many denominations within the present day church. No one can tell you what you should believe, and you are solely responsible for your own actions, responses, and behaviors. Choose a Bible translation that suits you. If you find the King James Version too difficult to retain your focus, check into other translations that are available. The Bible should not be a "chore" to read.
2. Read regularly. You can't expect to master rocket science by picking up a book "occasionally." Read the Bible regularly and it will come alive for you and your understanding will increase dramatically. Try to choose a time and place that you go each day. Soon this routine will be a highlight of your day and you will look forward to the rejuvenation that comes with the time spent in the Word.
3. Prepare. You should prayerfully ask God for guidance and insight into what you are reading, and listen to your inner voice for direction. Have faith that your prayers and questions will be answered. Some find it helpful to listen to inspirational music before reading in order to focus their attention on spiritual matters. Choose a quiet place free from distractions and try to clear your mind of pressing issues that may cloud your thinking. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques are beneficial exercises that will help you to focus more clearly on your reading.
4. Take what you read literally. God is not the author of confusion. This is the owner's manual for life on earth. He would not give you a roadmap that you could not understand. After slowly reading (and re-reading) your selected passage, ask yourself these questions: What is the main subject of this reading? Who is speaking? What is being said? To Whom? What is the key verse? Does this passage contain a command for me to obey? Does this passage reveal anything I see as a stumbling block in my own life?
Does this passage relate to you or your situation? Is there something in the passage that needs to be incorporated into your own life? Answer these questions as truthfully as possible and see what direction this takes you.
5. Use resources. Many translations will contain references to other correlating scriptures in order to clarify or reiterate the main point. Some will have scriptural notes explaining the circumstances in greater detail. Many contain dictionaries, maps, weights and measures conversions etc. A concordance is an invaluable searching tool that will list the passages which contain any word or phrase that you may wish. Commentaries are great resources that go into detailed explanations concerning each passage. These will assist you in better understanding the cultural and spiritual aspects of the scripture, but keep in mind that it is one man's opinion. The best online resource that I have come across is called E-sword. It is a downloadable Bible that can be customized with different translations, concordances, dictionaries, and commentaries. Translations can be viewed side-by-side for comparison and notes can be saved within the file. Although this is a free resource, some translations charge a small fee. (see resource box for info) Online Christian forums and chat rooms have ongoing discussions about many of life's questions. You may get some helpful insights, as well as different viewpoints about any number of topics.
After using these 5 tips, you should have a better understanding of the Bible, and a better relationship with God, not to mention the people around you. You will begin to gain the wisdom of the ages, and who knows, you might just find more than you were looking for.
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